"There is only one way that my training can be taken to heart, " Weepasa warned, “and that is if mindfulness is uninterrupted each wakeful moment of each day. Do you understand what I have just said? Each wakeful moment of the day! Initially you will feel lost and confused because when your mind is not permitted to retain recall of what it observes, it becomes very insecure with only awareness without registration.
"But do not succumb to fear. Don't be concerned about your physical health either, for if you are, you will constantly scheme to keep yourself safe, and this will generate thought and break your mindfulness. You truly must be a fearless warrior to reach the key, for you can easily die from the exertion here. But so be it. The effort will serve you well in the next lifetime. "
Weepasa just said that I could easily die from training with him here! I finally had to face it; it was time to decide if I was willing to risk everything. After all these years of looking inward, however, I had to ask myself who exactly is was that is risking what?
"Life is very short, " added Weepasa. “If all that you do in this brief moment we call a lifetime is to constantly save yourself again and again, you will never face the ultimate challenge. Saving yourself for the future can be an ongoing delusion, for when that future arrives, you will then save yourself repeatedly. Your habit pattern of quitting will become so ingrained that you will create kamma, the inclination to save yourself continuously, and therefore you will never find the courage to go beyond your ‘self. '
"Here you have an opportunity to break this pattern of many lifetimes of fear, the fear of emptiness, but a man such as you will never find his limits until he goes there. Don't stop halfway as you have done so many times in the past. For once in your uncountable lifetimes, overcome your past kamma and proceed to finality without concern.
"Your training begins now. You must practice the inner work of insight every waking moment until you meet the dragon. Seven years of unbroken mindfulness and the dragon will be yours. Never mind seven years - seven months of unbroken mindfulness will accomplish your goal. In fact, if you maintain unbroken mindfulness here for only seven weeks, you will find your key. Disregard seven weeks, for you, seven days of unbroken mindfulness and you will become a key keeper.
"You may ask one question. "
The question arose spontaneously in my mind, but it didn't come from me. I couldn't say where it came from: “Why help humanity if they posses no self?"
Weepasa's answer was immediate, almost as if he anticipated the question, “Because humanity suffers. " And with this, the master waived me off.
I left Weepasa's room with mixed feelings of apprehension and expectation. This definitely would be the most intensive thing that I had ever attempted, for even in the cave I had some control. Now, I would not be in control but would undeniably be completely free to remain within my inner work because of the structure and support here. This was the Master of Insight that the sorcerer had promised, and I knew that I was very close to the Dragon of Atta. I must not falter. How difficult could it be to maintain complete mindfulness for a mere seven days!
I began the schedule and quickly discovered that relinquishing control wasn't easy. After all, I had been controlling my life for over seventy years! But, for some reason, my trust in this teacher was unconditional, and I found that by following this extremely restrictive training of the mind, I was able to let go of my “self, " little by little. I did this by being aware of each thought impulse as it arose, as well as the physical emotions and mental feelings, and then releasing them immediately.
I sat perfectly still during my inner work, not moving once I settled into my position. Any inclination to move was always preceded by a thought or physical sensation that I would let go of immediately therefore invalidating the action that would have normally followed. If I felt the inclination to move, I would release the inclination. This involved becoming mindful of all those initial contacts with my body or mind that precludes action, so that I could see the stimulations clearer and not be so automatic and unconscious in my responses. If the body needed to relieve itself, I noticed the initial sensation in the bladder and the building impulse to urinate.
I found that practicing the inner work while walking was not much different from sitting, except that if I became very mindful during walking, the mindfulness became even more refined when subsequently sitting. While on the walking paths, I did not associate with anybody, no talking or looking around, not even a sideward glance. This was enormously important because I knew that only a one-minute conversation; a one-minute escape would ruin my mindfulness for days - if not weeks. I walked at a slow to normal pace from one end of the path to the other with my arms hanging relaxed and my hands clasped in front. I didn't consciously direct my attention to anything once the walking began. There was only the walking, keeping my eyes two paces ahead on the path. With my mind aware and concentrated, I paid strict attention to the various sensations that arose, and then immediately released them, such as the sensations of the feet touching the ground, and the various joints moving.
In many ways, I was becoming my own teacher, where something beyond myself was helping me see, or rather ‘feel’ in my heart. With the help of my years of inner work, it became known to me instinctively that this mindfulness must be unbroken. One peek away from my mindfulness during my walking practice would ruin it, and therefore I kept my focus intense, and remained within each moment as if I was perched on a high wire hundreds of feet in the air.
My mind struggled and attempted every diversion to free itself from the restraints of this intense inner work. Severe doubt resurfaced, and memories of the past attacked me. I was well aware that these kinds of doubts and hindrances were merely indicators that my deluded mind was squirming, and that the practice was becoming effective, so I didn't fall prey to any of the beginners’ mistakes of succumbing to uncertainty and reverie. I knew that if I did yield to these things, Insight would be finished.
I tried to never think without being aware that I was thinking, and never talk to anyone. I was completely self-enclosed, and since everything was provided for me, I could simply follow the bells. One bell meant that it was time to sit in my room and practice. Two bells meant walking practice on the paths. Three bells announced the meal in the main building and four bells alerted me it was time to sleep, while five bells awakened me. My entire existence consisted of alternating periods of sitting, walking, eating once a day, and four hours of sleep each night. This was my training - simply following the bells and remaining in a constant, wide-open awareness.
There were, however, troubling things that were not completely resolved in my mind, and they irritated me. I tried to merely watch them as thoughts, but they invariably returned, torturing me every day. I knew that I would need more help before my mind could relax enough to progress, so I risked seeing Weepasa again.
E. Raymond Rock of Fort Myers, Florida is cofounder and principal teacher at the Southwest Florida Insight Center, http://www.SouthwestFloridaInsightCenter.com His twenty-eight years of meditation experience has taken him across four continents, including two stopovers in Thailand where he practiced in the remote northeast forests as an ordained Theravada Buddhist monk. His book, A Year to Enlightenment (Career Press/New Page Books) is now available at major bookstores and online retailers. Visit http://www.AYearToEnlightenment.com